Murre Study Recap

Hello Everyone,

After an extended break from our blog due to an OWCN research project and the holidays, we are back!  You may remember Nancy’s blog from early December regarding captures for our murre study, which you can read about here.  Those captures were successful, and we were able to catch enough common murres to conduct our study.

Murres waiting for a fish toss at the UC Davis research pools.

Murres waiting for a fish toss at the UC Davis research pools.

The birds were brought back to Davis, where they were housed in our research pools for the first part of our study.  Each bird received an intake exam and the pools were videotaped to get baseline data on their overall health and behavior.  The purpose of this project was to determine the effects of dispersant and chemically dispersed oil on the waterproofing and health of the birds, as measured by temperature, waterproofing exams, and behavior, as well as a multitude of other parameters.  To expose the animals to dispersant, oil, or a combination of the two, Tim built a mixing pump that helped us mimic dispersant and/or oil moving through the water column in the ocean.

Emily and Mike work on loading dispersant into the exposure pool

Emily and Mike work on loading dispersant into the exposure pool

Birds were placed in exposure pools for 90 seconds, and then in clean rinsing pools.  Over the course of the next few days extensive data was collected to help us examine what (if any) effects the dispersant and oil had on these birds.  After exposure, we washed and conditioned the birds for release back into the wild.

Emily and Kyra release clean murres near Santa Cruz.

Emily and Kyra release clean murres near Santa Cruz.

Since dispersant is approved for use during oil spills in California’s offshore waters, the information learned from this study will provide spill managers important information that will help them decide whether dispersant is appropriate for use during spill response, and if so the best practice to use it when wildlife is present.  It will be some time before we have all of the data analyzed, but we do look forward to sharing our results with everyone.   This study was also informative in that the long hours and organized chaos was good practice for the OWCN staff for spill response!

Lastly, I would like to thank the many people that helped out on this project.  From beginning to end we had almost 20 individuals, not including the OWCN staff, that came out to help with the project.  Their hard work helped make this study possible, and we will use this information to keep many birds safe during spill response.

-Becky

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